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Baltimore Central Booking corrections officers indicted; one accused of choking inmate until she passed out

A Baltimore grand jury has indicted three correctional officers on charges of misconduct, and one of them for allegedly choking an inmate who refused orders at the Central Booking and Intake Center.

The inmate, Amber Canter, sat on the floor and refused to move in June 2019. Surveillance cameras captured Officer Zanel Santana yank Canter up in an illegal choke hold, prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

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“Canter can be seen on the video immediately grabbing towards [her] neck, as [she] was unable to breathe,” prosecutors wrote. “Within at least seven seconds after being placed in the choke hold by CO II Santana, Canter’s body and legs went limp.”

She passed out while in the officer’s grip, prosecutors wrote.

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“Santana lets go of an unconscious Canter completely, causing Canter to hit the concrete floor directly with [her] face,” prosecutors wrote.

Canter suffered severe bruises and fractures to her face, including her eye socket, they wrote. Santana and Officer Ochenna Okeke are accused of dragging the unconscious Canter away.

Maryland Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services Robert Green said violence against inmates won’t be tolerated.

“If the allegations are true, they represent behavior that tarnishes the badge of every correctional professional,” he said in a statement.

Green’s office and the Baltimore state’s attorney announced the charges Wednesday.

“As administers of the criminal justice system, we are committed to protecting public safety and the well-being of everyone in our community, which is inclusive of those currently incarcerated,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in the statement.

Santana, Okeke and a sergeant filed reports about the encounter, but omitted mention of the choke hold or that Canter passed out, according to prosecutors. Online court records did not list their attorneys.

Santana alone is charged with first-degree assault in addition to two counts of misconduct in office. Santana has been suspended without pay, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said.

Okeke and Sgt. Moneyette Washington have been indicted each on two counts of misconduct in office; they are suspended with pay, the spokeswoman said.

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